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February 2014 Standards Update

2014 February 27
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by jnoblitt

Standards Updates: IBM, MathML
Submitted by Geoff Freed

  • IBM recently announced that it will begin using EPUB 3 as its primary portable document format.  See also a detailed explanation of this decision by Rich Schwerdtfeger, CTO of accessibility in IBM’s software group. By moving to EPUB 3, users will be able to read documents produced by IBM on mobile devices using a variety of reading systems, and take advantage of the transformational capabilities that EPUB offers.  EPUB 3 also offers improvements in accessibility to users of assistive technology.
  • MathML 3.0, 2nd Edition, now in Proposed Edited Recommendation status, is available for comment at http://www.w3.org/TR/2014/PER-MathML3-20140211/.  Comments must be sent to the working group no later than March 11, 2014.
  • IE 11 and Chrome have officially eliminated support for MathML. In addition, IE 11 removes support for plug-ins, such as MathPlayer.  (Firefox and Safari both continue to natively support MathML.)  These actions by Microsoft and Google may result in increased usage of MathJax to deliver math to all browsers, which in turn will have a significant effect on the accessibility of math in other browsers.  While MathJax provides visual consistency for the display of math across all browsers (as well as accessibility features such as zooming), it also requires the use of MathPlayer in order to make equations screen-reader accessible in IE.  Without support for MathPlayer in IE, screen readers will not be able to read equations aloud in that browser.  Additionally, equations presented in Safari using MathJax cannot be read by VoiceOver, whereas equations presented in native MathML can be read by VoiceOver. Work on MathML Cloud and other initiatives continue work on bridging the gap between MathML and reading tool support.

Standards Working Group Update
The DIAGRAM Standards Working Group met on February 19, 2014, and welcomed Keith Creasy of the APH as its newest member. Discussion focused on recent developments in standards, including IBM’s announcement to shift to accessible EPUB 3 as a default, the EDUPUB2 new profile of EPUB 3, and much more. Please contact co-chairs George Kerscher and Mark Hakkinen if you have ideas to add to the next meeting agenda. See the Standards Working Group wiki for the meeting notes. The next meeting will be held on a date TBD in April 2014.

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